Why the Rock?

My daughter’s video caused a little tempest in a teapot on my Youtube Channel. She’s proud of her strength and so am I. To be honest I am more proud of the way she attacks the bar than of her strength.

Every time we post a clean video we get the same questions/ criticism. Some politely ask “why the rock?”. Others are not so kind and call us out on our execution of the lift. Because the topic comes up so often I figure an explanation is in order.

First, let me explain the evolution of the rock ,or the shift, or the scoop depending on your choice of name. My athletes have been performing the hang clean in this manner for over twenty years. To be honest, initially I never taught it. It just happened. Our better lifters soon realized that trying to hang clean a heavy weight from a dead stop was difficult.  Many began to rock or weight shift. They also began to hang clean a lot of weight. For a few years I simply let the lift evolve and at numerous points in the eighties and nineties had 30 football players hang cleaning over 300 lbs. Not bad for 1AA football.

A few years later I made the foolish mistake of listening to my critics.  They said that rocking was wrong and that we needed to stop. Like a good coach I agreed and vigorously coached my athletes. I forbade them from rocking. The results were simple and obvious. Our numbers dropped and dropped a lot. One of my athletes actually came up to me and said “nice job you’ve managed to make us all weaker”. His hang clean max had dropped from 370 to 340. ( Please note- this players vertical increased 12” in 4 years from 20 to 32”). I was conflicted. I just wanted to do what was best for my athletes. However, no one was injured rocking and, everyone could lift more weight. I began to do some analysis of the situation and came to the conclusion that rocking was a normal part of both athletics and of Olympic weightlifting.

I can remember reading Carl Miller’s Olympic Lifting manual in the early 80’s and reading about “double knee bend”. Boy do I wish I still had a copy. My first reaction to the concept of “double knee bend” was to think it was impossible. However, after watching lots of good Olympic weightlifters on video it became obvious that it was not only not impossible but that every great lifter did it.  Watch some video in slow motion and you see it.  In order for the bar to clear the knees the hips  and knees extend. After the bar clears the knees, the knees actually flex or rebend to move the hips into position. In the jump portion of the lift the knees extend again. The cycle is extend-flex-extend. This has been referred to as rocking, scooping, or double knee bend. In any case, it is real and it happens.

The rock you see in our Olympic lifts is this same action. Weight shifts back to the heels, knees extend. Weight shifts forward, knees flex. Hips explode and hips and knees extend. What we are doing is what every athlete does to create maximal explosive power. Watch the vertical jumps at the NFL Combine. What do you see? Rocking, pre-stretch, weight shift. Call it what you want but it is the best way to produce a powerful, maximal effort. Since that one time  I have always said, damn the critics, full speed ahead. I have lots of females cleaning 135 lbs for reps and the majority of my male hockey players hang clean between 250 and 320? Am I wrong? You be the judge. Healthy athletes, great clean numbers, great speed improvement, great vertical jump. Where do I go wrong? As Lee Cockrell says in  Creating Magic what if the way we always did it was wrong?





16 Responses to “Why the Rock?”

  1. mboyle1959 Says:

    I guess my big question would be why is there a need for explosive power from a static position? Can you give some examples?

  2. Brendon Ziegler Says:

    No I wouldn’t disagree with that. Stretch reflex will generally produce a greater force. However, I don’t believe that you can make a dogmatic absolute statement that a stretch reflex should procede all actions in training. There are plenty of times when stretch reflex in undesirable (ie when causing lengthend time to accelerate or resulting compensatory actions. To handle these situations we need to develop the starting strength in static positions . There is a time and place for stretch reflex (ie jerks, counter movement jumps, bounding etc) and there is a NEED for movement and strength work starting from a static position.

  3. mboyle1959 Says:

    I guess I would disagree. I think most athletes ( besides O-line) benefit from a pre-stretch action. Agree to disagree?

  4. Brendon Ziegler Says:

    Yes there are, in pretty much all sports athletes will have to accelerate, jump and move from static positions. From football linemen, to basketball bigs in the post, from swimmers to soccer players. From sprinters to volleyball players, how about hockey goalies? Even in the combine most of the movements are preceded by a static postion, from the 40 to the L drill. Acceleration from a static postion is essential in most athletics.

  5. mboyle1959 Says:

    Are there many athletes ( besides o-line in football) who really move without countermovement?

  6. Brendon Ziegler Says:

    If you have athletes that accelerate or jump out of static positions then the rock doesn’t make much sense to me. Sure you can definitely lift more wieght with it, but this is not necessarly the goal of the lift. The goal of the lift is to build explosive strength. The double knee bend isn’t a function of the knees flexing once the bar moves past them. It is repositioning the bar and bodyweight so that the bar is closer relative to the hips.

    As I see it most of our athletes lack non-counter movement accelerative strength. Aren’t we just enabling this by allowing counter movements during weightlifting movements?

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  8. mboyle1959 Says:

    No problem, just thought I was missing something.

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